Part 1; Yes there is Part 2, I take joy in inflicting pain upon my readers.
Airavat is a special state bus with certain amenities like A/C and better seats, as opposed the State transportation Red bus. I saw an uniformed driver and conductor guiding me to get into their bus. I said, “I want to ride an Airavat“, the conductor who was loading the passengers baggage paused and showed me the sign Airavat written on the bus. The name was partially blocked because side luggage door panel was open. I gently smiled and said, “I want to ride that Airavat“, it was one behind this bus more posh looking and a picture of Baby stroller; which meant when you travel in that bus you felt like a baby in the cradle, “That has A/C“. To which he replied, “This has A/C too, get in we will leave soon“. It was his inviting smile and sense of responsibility to fill the bus to capacity, he need not do that, since this was a state run bus and he was a govt employee. This bus looked lot beaten up compared to that Baby Airavat, but I decided to go with these guys. At the wheels was the Mahout; taming this beast of the bus. Concerned about the state laws of ladies reserved seats, I asked him if I could sit right behind his seat. To which he said, “Sit anywhere you want sir, the whole bus is empty“. It was, I was their first passenger to board. Then I asked him gingerly, “When will this bus leave?“, it appeared that people were walking past this bus and going to Baby Airavat. Usually they would not move until the bus is to the capacity, literally there was no schedule. “Just now a bus took off, we will be moving in five minutes“. For me it was the seat I had got, a full POV road view seated right above the driver seat, sitting on an elephant where Mahout was at the helms.
I had started my journey at 6AM from RamaMurthy Nagar, my brother’s house who had dropped me to Bayappanhalli Metro, the plan per my brother was, I get off at Majestic and get the Airavat to Mysore. As soon as I got off at Majestic, I was awaited for a rude awakening, no buses departed from Majestic to Mysore, all of that service had moved to Satellite. My bother had no idea about this and I don’t blame him, he always travelled by his personal car and never used the public transport. Majestic is an area where all modes of transportation are housed next to each other, The Southwestern Railway Station, The circular maze inter and intra-city bus stand; Kempegowda Bus Station and now the newly constructed Namma Metro. I just had to walk around a little and finally had managed to get into city red bus to Satellite.
Barely it had been 5 or 10 mins, they had decided to keep moving, although the Mahout said, “How many seats do we have?“, to which the conductor responded, “We have some 19 passengers.“, “let’s look for few more, we need to cover the diesel price at least.“, another family got on and we were off the stand. The time was 8AM, I had spent 2 hours of my time to get to the Mysore bus with all that Metro-city bus switch and ride.
I am not a big fan of breakfast on a regular day other than a cup of tea, but I do look forward to IWS (Idli Wada Sambar) on my Indian road trip, it is my BLT to an American. While conductor gave me the ticket, I had asked him when would they stop for breakfast, very soon came the answer.
I call this driver Mahout with huge respect, it is impossible to maneuver the bus through these streets packed with all kind of vehicles cutting ahead of the bus, needless to say even the pedestrians are crossing the streets, he was stopping the bus within inches of other vehicles. The duo was courteous to all the passengers who boarded in the middle of the road, including help them load the luggage in the compartment. It was a bright sunny day, could be hot outside but I felt pleasant inside the bus. Wonderful restaurants passed by where the private buses were parked, the time was nearing 9AM and the driver was in no rush to halt. I figured, they had a designated restaurant where they stopped. They did and it was next town the ChannaPatna bus stand; the city of toys. The time was 10AM and my stomach was growling, had my IWS with double chai. Complimented the Mahout for his driving skills, to which he had humbly said, “Well, we have to manage in this crazy traffic“. Sadly the roads from Bangalore to Mysore are completely under construction for the 6 lane highway. Currently the buses and other vehicles get by the old roads and some time getting on the partially built highway. What bothered me the most was the trucks with any disregard, overload blocked the road without giving way for the bus to pass thru. Technically that should be considered as illegal to block a commuter bus. In western states the bus has the highest priority second only to ambulance, the simple reason for this privilege is, a bus transports at least 50 people which other wise would have been 50 cars on the road.
From ChannaPatna the conductor took the wheels, otherwise called Mahout 2. The ride from here on was fairly smooth although these are still the service lanes to be, once the highway is complete, which would reduce our commute time drastically. Thoroughly enjoyed the ride, thanked the duo handsomely and asked for the bus to KR Nagar my final destination bus ride. To which they gave me the platform number, grabbed my belongings and got off. Alas! I had an electronic reader/writer reMarkable, which I had used to jot down my thoughts about this very blog and left it on the seat next to me, which was camouflaged in gray seat with a gray sleeve!
Once you loose an electronic item in a public setting, it is next to impossible to recover it, I was extremely disappointed as I realized it when the KR bus was on the move. I brushed it off completely assuming this was the collateral damage for my fun filled trip, had no mood to spoil rest of the vacation with my family. Reached KR, spent time with my other brother and family then came back to Mysore to visit his new house, met my old friend Manoj settled in Mysore from New Jersey, never mentioned anybody about the reMarkable. I really wanted to put that behind. On the way back to Bangalore, I narrated about the Mysore bus chaos starting point and road conditions, to which my SIL (sister-in-law) suggested that I always ride the trains, the best mass transit system. She helped me book a sleeper in the afternoon to Bangalore and had a pleasant ride back.
Now that the trip was over and the thought of reMarkable re-lingered, felt helpless and the loss wasn’t the money, but the notes I had gathered on it over a period of time. There are few people like my brother in Hubli and my BIL(brother-in-law) in Bangalore, you tell them about your worries and they see that they find the solution to it. I felt too embarrassed to mention him about this loss, had I lost the Passport it would have been a different matter. I knew if I mentioned him he would drop everything and get behind this, so just slept thru the night. Next morning I had plans to meet my other New Jersey friends settled in Bangalore.
Next day ate my brunch; technically I was full and ready to take on the hot summer day without the worry of lunch. Instead of going towards Marathahalli; friends residence, I decided to take a solo trip to Satellite opposite direction, with a last ditch effort to contact the Airavat office and ask about the bus I had taken two days back with the license plates; I had captured it as my blog thought, my Airavat! Got of the auto a decently charged fare, not happens all the time with autos in Bangalore, every one was in distress about the gas prices that has shot up in past six months from Rs 50 to Rs 80 plus. There was another Airavt ready to leave and I enquired where was the office, got a suggestion that a I take next bend, I will see the office. I rushed to the bend and more Airavats were lined up and to my amazement I saw my Mahout standing and guiding a bus. I ran to him and said, “Sir, you recognize me?“, him little perplexed by my sudden interruption, then I pulled my mask down to show my full face. “Ah! you are the one that travelled to Mysore the other day“,
“Yes, I had a left a reader on the seat“, jumping to my main concern
“Yes you did, I sent the conductor, to find you at the KR Nagar platform, we could not spot you“, I had gone to platform 5 which housed KR buses somebody else suggested me that I take Hassan bus which went en-route to KR and reached faster, hence the conductor could not spot me. “My conductor has kept it safe with him, give me your number to contact, he is currently on the move but he will contact you as soon as he reaches Bangalore or wherever you will be“.
“Sir, tonight I am travelling to Hubli.“
“No worries we will arrange to ship it to Hubli thru another driver, let’s keep in touch and note my number as Balu“, thus the Mahout I adored came to be known is Balu, “Here, this number of the conductor, save it as Ismail“, my Mahout 2 was Ismail.
Thrilled and thanking Balu, I took off for my main event of the day, met with my friends, enjoyed Sanjeev’s handmade Irish Kulfi. Later that night, I took the Channamma Express to Hubli. Next day contacted Ismail, about his schedule, to which he indicated that he was in Trivandrum and would be back to Bangalore on Saturday the earliest. Thursday I was flying out of Mumbai to New Jersey.
Finally, I reached out to my BIL who was shocked to hear and readily agreed to do the needful. I exchanged the numbers of BIL and Ismail, they got in touch on Saturday and brought the reMarkable home.